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Yuvraj Singh: The linchpin of India's World Cup glories

Cricket will remember Yuvraj Singh as a flamboyant batsman who could easily be the game-changer on his day.

Rishabh Gupta Rishabh Gupta
New Delhi Updated on: June 10, 2019 17:13 IST
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Yuvraj Singh: The linchpin of India's World Cup glories 

It's a tense evening in Kingsmead, Durban. India needs a win to stay in the tournament, and they've started well. They're 155 for 3, with 20 balls to go. The new man in is Yuvraj Singh, and he's aggressive from the very first ball, scoring 14 off his first six.

It was then, when Andrew Flintoff decides to commit the gravest mistake in the history of mistakes. As unkind as it would get, a poor 21-year-old Stuart Broad pays the price.

Flintoff sledges Yuvraj - a poor decision when a batsman is in-charge for a side which can't afford to lose. Stuart Broad arrives the next over, and Yuvi begins his assault.

For the next six deliveries, Yuvraj dispatches the ball into the South African night, and the bowler could do little but gaze into the oblivion, almost as if he's counting the stars (or the number of deliveries left in the over). Yuvi becomes the first player in the format to hit six sixes in an over. He would also go on to score the fastest half-century at the time.

The evening isn't tense anymore. The Indian fans are dancing. A World Cup hero is born, and he is here for a long run. 

The six deliveries against England are perhaps the most commemorated among the Indian fans when we talk about Yuvraj Singh. In the IPL earlier this year, Yuvraj hit Yuzvendra Chahal for three consecutive sixes in the first three balls - and the bowler later stated that he felt like Stuart Broad.

The six sixes have become Yuvraj Singh's legacy, and rightly so. And while the six deliveries might have come across as a strong statement of intent, they also marked the beginning of Yuvraj taking the centre-stage. As Yuvraj retires, let's take a look at how he steered India in both the World Cup victories (T20 World Cup 2007 and 50-over World Cup 2011), emerging as one of the heroes for the side.

ICC World Twenty20 2007

Yuvraj began the tournament poorly. He failed against Pakistan, Scotland and New Zealand and the stakes were high as the side traveled to Durban to take on England.

Perhaps, Andrew Flintoff's bait reminded Yuvraj of Dimitri Mascarenhas' assault off his own bowling, not too long ago. India traveled to England for three test matches and seven ODIs in a tour preceding the first-ever World Twenty20. Mascarenhas hit Yuvi for five sixes in the sixth ODI of the series, with the first delivery, much to Yuvraj's relief as he would look back in hindsight, a dot ball. 

Mascarenhas wasn't in the XI this time around, but that didn't stop Yuvraj to return the favour - with interest. India crossed 200 runs with ease after Yuvraj's fireworks against Broad, and India entered the semifinals of the tournament, where they faced the reigning terror in world cricket at the time - Australia.

It was a team that had just won the 50-over World Cup, and included big hitters like Adam Gilchrist, Mathew Hayden and Andrew Symonds. However, the new-age team India didn't falter, piling up 188 runs for the loss of five wickets. 

And it was Yuvraj Singh, who emerged as the hero with the bat again. In merely 30 balls, Yuvraj hit 70 runs, smashing five sixes and as many boundaries. The team was struggling at 5.1 RPO when Yuvi arrived. However, when Mike Hussey finally caught him off Michael Clarke, the run rate had gone up to 8.95.

Yuvraj's performances in games against England and Australia - both must-win fixtures, were central to India's road to the final of the tournament, where the Men in Blue defeated arch-rivals Pakistan to lift the first-ever T20 World Cup.

ICC World Cup 2011

Yuvraj Singh's story in the World Cup-winning campaign of 2011 is the one to remember for ages. In 2007, the left-handed batsman showed the world that he is a fighter. Four years later, he emerged as a survivor - because even as he performed consistently to win the Man of the Tournament, he battled something which would simply dwarf any other challenge in the world. He fought cancer through the tournament, and he survived.

A tumour was developing inside Yuvraj Singh as he took part in the World Cup. He was having sleepless nights, he went breathless on occasions, and yet, he was with the team, performing on the biggest stage against the best in the world. He was winning Man of the Match awards, and he steered India throughout the six weeks to a memorable win on April 2, 2011.

Yuvraj's contribution wasn't needed in India's opening game against Bangladesh in Dhaka, thanks to Virender Sehwag's 175 and Virat Kohli's 100*. However, Yuvi, who had become an all-rounder now, soon showed why he was going to be the man to lead the side to glory.

In the next three games, Yuvraj scored a quickfire half-century against England, became the first player to take five wickets and score a fifty in a World Cup game (against Ireland) and scored a third consecutive fifty against The Netherlands, in addition to taking two wickets.

In the game against the West Indies, Yuvraj scored a brilliant hundred and took two wickets again, stepping up at the perfect time for the side. But, perhaps, his most memorable performance came against Australia.

The Aussies batted first, and just as the partnership between Brad Haddin and Ricky Ponting seemed to take the game away from India, Yuvi struck, bowling out the Aussie wicket-keeper, tossing it up and tricking Haddin into a cover-drive. 

With the bat, Yuvraj scored a match-winning 57 in 65 deliveries. 

His only failure in the tournament came against Pakistan in the semifinal, but even then, he made it count with the ball, taking important wickets of Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq. 

In the final, thanks to Gautam Gambhir and MS Dhoni, Yuvraj only had to come at a time when the match was all but done. However, even though he didn't play a big role in the final game, his presence on the crease as India chased 274 was a sweet justice in itself.

With 362 runs and 15 wickets, Yuvraj Singh was awarded the Man of the Tournament.

Cricket will remember Yuvraj Singh as a flamboyant batsman who could easily be the game-changer on his day. The Indian fans, however, will look back at a player who sowed the seeds of India's rise as a super-power in the cricketing world.

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